Bright and early in the morning, Jim and I got off at a rest stop on our way to Hoi An. As usual, I rushed to the toilet while Jim browsed around to see if there’s anything to snack on for our last stretch. After I came out of the restroom, Jim was already speaking to a Vietnamese man like they were old friends. That was the first time we met John. John speaks fluent English, which was uncommon, at least unusual for us during this trip in Vietnam. During the short conversation, I learned that John is the third generation of a family of tailors, and himself is a Hoi An tailor shop owner. We briefly chatted about our trip in Vietnam so far, and we also asked John about recommendations of things to do in Hoi An.
“When you visit Hoi An, come visit my shop. I will give you a good deal if you want to make a suit, and I’ll give you recommendations on things to do, too!” John handed us his business card and said to us casually with a friendly smile before we hopped on our bus.
I didn’t know much about tailor shops in Hoi An, but apparently, Jim secretly did his research and was already planning on getting a tailor-made suit. He learned about tailor shops in Hoi An on the BBC TV show Top Gear. Jim is 195cm and has very long legs and arms, so it’s not easy for him to find shirts and suits that fit him well. Plus, a tailor-made suit in his native Sweden would cost him a fortune. We love the positive, non-pushy vibe John emitted, so we pretty much decided to visit John’s tailor shop right away right after we arrived our homestay in Hoi An.
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John’s tailor shop, “Surprise.”
We reached John’s tailor shop in the early afternoon, and we mentioned to the two ladies at the store that we met John at a bus stop near Da Nang. They invited us to take a seat, gave us two bottles of cold water and called John soon after. They started by letting Jim picked the colour and the material he wanted for his suits. John arrived shortly.
John gave Jim his professional and honest advice. As the third generation of a tailors family, he certainly knew what he is doing. John has a great sense of style, and he used the best materials even for the inner lining. Jim decided to order a 3-piece-suit and a shirt. John personally took Jim’s measurements, then voilà! Now we wait and come back the next morning for fitting and alteration.
The next day, everything was made. They purposely made the pants looser for alteration, so it looked very baggy at the moment, but the cut looked great on Jim. Jim loved the tailor-made shirt and decided to order two more.
And the cost? An excellent quality 3-piece-suit and three shirts cost Jim not even 200 euros. For someone like Jim who comes from an everything-is-expensive land, this is beyond a bargain.
John’s tailor shop doesn’t only make clothes for men, but for women, too. He recommended me to make a jumper, and it was attempting, but I decided to wait until I slim a few pounds down. Haha! (As I am writing now, I wish I made one!)
“Where are you from?” (Spend money at my tailor shop!)
Right after we dropped our bags at our homestay in Hoi An, we borrowed bicycles from our host and cycled to John’s tailor shop “Surprise.” On the way to Surprise, a Vietnamese woman approached Jim on her scooter and asked him “Where are you from?” Jim politely answered her. At first, we thought we just bumped into an utterly friendly local, but after exchanging few sentences, the woman revealed her real agenda: “You want to make some new clothes? We make you new suits!” As soon as Jim rejected her and told her we already have a shop to go to, she rode away. Well, this is also a way to promote your business, We thought. I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. I guess, after all, Hoi An is not rural Ninh Binh or Phong Nha but a city that strives on tourism.
Later on, we realised asking foreigners “where are you from?” is a way for these Hoi An tailor shop promoters to strike a conversation. They are everywhere in Hoi An. When we were eating at Banh Mi Queen, a random woman also came up to us and tried to do the same trick. She didn’t give up after we told her we were already making suits with John’s tailor shop. “You make more? You buy more?” She kept repeating herself like a broken record until we stopped responding her. I suppose many restaurants in Hoi An also allow the promoters to advertise their business. In Hoi An, many tailor shops affiliate with homestays and hotels to gain more customers while the affiliates take commissions.
Surprise! A Hoi An Tailor Shop with history
Over an afternoon coffee, John told us that his grandfather and father are both tailors. His father inherited the local factory that makes tailor clothes and costumes for local businesses and government. The factory has around 50 employees.
When we met John, “Surprise” was only opened for two months, and it’s opened just for tourists like us. Within a short amount of time, Surprise already built up hundreds of excellent reviews on Tripadvisor. (only excellent ones, too!) I believe it’s not only because of their fantastic craftsmanship but also how genuine they are as a local business. John takes time to understand what his customers favour. They take the measurements at the shop and send it back to the factory. Knowing where the products come from was the other reason why we trusted that John would bring us the best quality within a short time. After all, it’s the product of a reputable factory with history.
And here’s the result!
Because of the two extra shirts that Jim ordered on the second day, we waited for another day to pick up everything. Here’s the result!
The entire process of getting tailor-made clothes at John’s shop was easy, fast, and most importantly, high quality. Most of the tailor shops in Hoi An offer next day pick up for orders, but not all of them guarantee good quality. After I shared our experiences with the Facebook world, someone immediately commented about his terrible experiences with tailor shops in Hoi An. I suppose you just can’t expect all 400 Hoi An tailor shops are all as professional as John’s.
Needless to say, Jim was extremely happy about the result of his suits. Doesn’t he look sharp in his new clothes?! The suits look professional, business casual, and stylish.
By any means, this is not an affiliate post, but we sincerely loved our experiences with John at Surprise Tailor Shop. Jim was already asking about shipping future orders overseas! (And yes, they do ship abroad.) John’s Surprise Tailor Shop became one of the very few reasons for us to visit Hoi An again. We were already talking about visiting Hoi An to make ourselves winter jackets (and eating world’s best banh mi.)
If you are visiting Hoi An, pay John’s shop a visit and make sure you have more than enough room in your bag or suitcase! You will want to order one shirt after another. 😛
Address: 35 Tran Hung Dao., Hoi An City, Viet Nam
Also published on Medium.